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Saving the College Building

(L-R) Dr. Thomas Chase, former Provost and Vice-President (Academic), U of R; The Honourable Ralph Goodale, former Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; Dr. Vianne Timmons, former President and Vice-Chancellor, U of R; Tina Beaudry-Mellor, former Minister of Advanced Education; former Mayor Michael Fougere.

Photo credit: University Advancement and Communications

Sharing an ambitious vision and recognizing the urgent need to save the College Building, the community rallied together for the community, defying what many said would be impossible; thus, in 2011 the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project was born.

The College Building, constructed approximately a century prior to that year, along with the West Tower and Conservatory, constructed in 1914-16, closed in September 2016 for extensive renovations.

On October 5, 2018 that “impossible” vision came to life, marked by an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand reopening of the newly renovated College Building.

The revitalization project made it possible to introduce modern teaching technology, increase building accessibility, upgrade building systems and enhance energy efficiency, and preserve and restore heritage elements throughout the building.

The College Building

The College Building is home to the University’s:

As part of the project, the historic lecture hall in the College Building was also renovated and restored in 2020.

Design and Heritage Highlights 

  • New entrance steps at the College Building were built to meet code requirements and match the original heritage steps.
  • The open, glass entry at the College Building main entrance reintroduced the original plan for a covered-carriage entrance.
  • Heritage hallways were refurbished as close to the original as possible with open ceilings, hanging lights, wood trim, original doors, and slate and quarry tile flooring.
  • Previously enclosed heritage staircases were opened up and refurbished to code.
  • Office suites are now more open and modern, with a focus on the heritage windows. Glass walls allow lots of natural light into interior offices.
  • The new design preserved the heritage of the existing Collegiate Gothic architecture.
  • With accessibility top of mind, the new atrium provides street level access to the College Building and its additions, as well as elevator access to the lower, main, second, and third floors. On the 4th and 5th floors in the Tower, where limited space and heritage preservation made an elevator unfeasible, the previous small stairway has been replaced with code-compliant stairs.
  • The new structure on the east side of College Building was designed to improve safety, access, and service, with the addition of fire exit stairs, washrooms, and space for mechanical and electrical utilities.
  • A significant amount of material was reused or refurbished, including:
    • the College Building, Tower, and four-storey Conservatory façades
    • 16,000 salvages bricks
    • College Building exterior steel windows, which were repaired or refurbished to include interior wood sashes and new double-pane glass for energy conservation
    • previously covered windows in the old recital hall, which were rebuilt to repair damage from moisture, heat and sand blasting of exterior glass
    • many existing stones, which were cleaned, repaired, replaced, and reinstalled in many areas
    • the Conservatory door archway, and
    • significant amounts of the College Building’s wooden doors, trim, and transoms.

To make a donation to the College Avenue Campus Renewal Project in support of Darke Hall and the College Building, please use the Donate Now button and type 'College Avenue' in the Fund Description box.

donate button

For more information about how you can donate, please contact:

Marc Butikofer, Director of Advancement